Beginnings of the Maine Apprentice Gardeners Program
The seed for MAG was planted in 1995 when PWA’s environmental education program first conducted gardening activities in local schools to increase young people’s understanding of and respect for the environment and for nature and biology of plants. It was in 2000 that Doris Balant of Newcastle, a long-time member of PWA and a Master Gardener Volunteer, connected with Knox-Lincoln Cooperative Extension to explore development of a curriculum for youngsters to parallel the Master Gardener course offered to adults by UMaine Extension.
For two years, a dedicated group of Master Gardener Volunteers worked with GSBS teacher Rachel Richardson Zoller to develop the MAG program. They designed it not only to parallel the Master Gardener program but also to fully align with Maine Learning Results (now known as Parameters for Essential Instruction). The program received a Knox-Lincoln Extension 4-H Youth Development Grant for developing the curriculum and purchasing classroom equipment, including, most notably, a light stand for growing plants indoors.
The Master Gardener Volunteers principally responsible for the development and launching of the MAG program include Lonnie Anderson, Doris Balant, Connie Bright, Carolyn Hardman, and Bernie McAlice, with invaluable program support from UMaine Extension staff, Mark Hutchinson and Elizabeth Stanley.
In 2007 UMaine Extension published the curriculum, making it available throughout the State. The goal of the MAG Curriculum is to connect young people with the natural world and with the source of their food. The 32-lesson MAG curriculum is geared for third and fourth graders and includes study of botany, insects, soil conservation, water, conservation, and the planning and planting of a garden. MAG lessons are taught by Master Gardener Volunteers working with the classroom teacher. Over the summer, the students weed, water, and harvest from their garden at the school. Apprentice Gardeners also perform a community service project, which is analogous to the volunteer time given to the community by adult Master Gardener Volunteers.
In addition to its use at GSBS, the curriculum has been used since 2009 at Bristol Consolidated School (BCS). Extension Home Horticulture funds supported the raised beds and soil at BCS. The Old Bristol Garden Club has provided funding for supplies, including a watering system at BCS, fencing at GSBS, and a light stand.
Beyond the Pemaquid Peninsula, the MAG curriculum has been used since 2007 at Warren Community School, and at other schools and youth programs across New England. Hundreds of copies of the print and CD versions have been sold. There also has been great interest in the MAG program with home school and public school groups at the Common Ground Fair, through the Maine School Garden Network, and Maine Ag in the Classroom.
To perpetuate the program, PWA collects donations to add to a dedicated fund for MAG to purchase supplies. If you would like to invest in the future of the Maine Apprentice Gardener program, click here to make a donation and put “MAG” in the Comments field. It’s a tax-deductible gift that is certain to sprout many benefits.
For Further Information
The Maine Apprentice Gardener program is a project of
Pemaquid Watershed Association and The University of Maine Cooperative Extension,
in collaboration with FARMS (Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools) and AOS 93.